Scottish Nature Photographer of the Year 2011

Well the quiet Highland peace changed last week when I received a totally unexpected call  from the good folks at the Scottish Nature Photography Awards  telling me that I had won the wildlife category of the competition with a portrait of a “Cheeky Otter” from Mull.

I was absolutely delighted, when I was then told this had been unanimously selected by the judges as the overall winner and I was Scottish Nature Photographer of the Year for 2011! The news has finally started to sink in and I am really looking forward to the year ahead.

Scottish Nature Photograph of the Year - winning image "Cheeky Otter"

Here’s what the judges said.

Scottish Wildlife Category

Neil McIntyre, one of the judges, said: “With a huge increase in entries from the first year (double in fact) plus the high standard, it was a tough long job to pick the winning pictures.

“It was going to take something extra special to stand out from so many great shots. However, the winning image of the Otter was a unanimous winner. This iconic, elusive animal was captured brilliantly by Marcus Conway, showing great character and capturing a perfect moment in time. You just can’t help but smile when you look at this picture and wish you had been there – a sure sign of a winning image.”

1st place & Scottish Nature Photographer of the Year 2011
Marcus said: “Scotland is a wonderful place to watch and photograph nature and I am overjoyed to have won this prestigious award.

“I had been on Mull for two weeks enjoying the wealth of wildlife on the island and tracking Otters. I had spotted a family of Otters feeding along the shoreline and decided to set up in the rocks to try to get a group shot. What happened next took me by surprise. The female Otter came onto the exact same rocks I had chosen, enabling me to get this intimate portrait shot as she scented the air. Moments later she was too close to focus on as she continued along the rocks just feet away.

“It was a wonderful encounter with one of Scotland’s finest mammals and to have been made Scottish Nature Photographer of the Year has made the moment even more special.”

I will of course post more in due course about this fabulous award. for now you can find more information on the main competition website


Life at the Top

I have no regret in every winter announcing that Ptarmigan are my favourite subject. There is something about the fact that whatever happens in life they will never come to you – there is no easy way to see them. You always have to go them; their environment, their altitude and most of all suffer their conditions.

This winter has been exceptional compared to recent years. Exceptionally mild, with little snow, but also exceptionally windy. So whilst the conditions at low levels and in the forests seem benign up on the tops access has been more unpleasant than in recent years.

Still we managed a 100% success rate with all three of our winter workshop groups getting up close and personal to these hardcore grouse. To be fair one group were stuck in the cloud base with the Ptarmigan. but not be put off all managed frame filling shots.

So having said how much I like them – well its the challenge in getting into their environment – here’s the reason I love them so much. They are just so rewarding. Spending time in their company and they accept you as part of their day and soon enough go about there business, which sometimes isn’t a lot, but there is something unbeatable about being on the tops just us and the Ptarmigan.